Build a better Blackberry Pie using tapioca, an old-school alternative to flour or cornstarch, plus enough berries to start your own farmer’s market!
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It’s true what they say: you can’t judge a book by its cover. If you’ve ever stumbled across (or worse, INTO) the giant, prickly, “pain shrub” that is a blackberry bush, you’d never imagine it could produce such a delectable, yummy Blackberry Pie!
Sure the dark juices leave purple spots on your picking fingers, and a poorly timed pie eating contest can leave your face stained for photos an hour or two later, but the plump berries with their deep, rich color and unique sweet/tart flavor are worth battling the heat of those infamous “dog days” for.
My Blackberry Pie recipe is the perfect way to showcase this stellar summer fruit.
HOW DO YOU MAKE A BLACKBERRY PIE?
To make a blackberry pie, you start with a store-bought or homemade pie crust, add fresh or frozen fruit sweetened and thickened with flour, cornstarch, or tapioca, then bake until golden brown and bubbly.
I use a store-bought pie crust for my recipe. The flavor and texture are comparable to homemade, and, now that we can buy it in sheets (versus the ones inside a disposable pie plate), we can decorate our pies with special shapes or designs.
If you want to make your own, you can. I just find the store-bought option gets me to the most important “eating” stage of this recipe a little more quickly.
Next, we put together the Blackberry Pie filling, and I choose fresh, not frozen blackberries for this recipe.
Many home cooks’ and chefs’ recipes (like the blackberry pie Pioneer Woman version) use frozen, but I almost always go the fresh route when I’m making fruit pies or other goodies!
I really do think there’s a noticeable textural difference, and I just try to make these recipes when the fruit is in season to ensure consistent ripeness.
HOW MANY CUPS ARE IN A PINT OF BLACKBERRIES?
There are two cups of blackberries in a pint, though the actual number of berries in a pint will vary based on the size.
For this recipe, you’ll need four pints, so buy an extra if you want a few to snack on or toss into your morning cereal.
This recipe does use a ton of fresh berries, but I manage to fit them into a standard (not deep-dish) Pyrex pie plate. You may need to mound them up slightly in the center, though, to make sure they don’t tumble out.
I use regular granulated sugar for sweetening the berries, plus a touch of salt to enhance the sweetness. Rather than vanilla or cinnamon (which the blackberry pie Jamie Oliver makes uses), I add a touch of lemon juice and zest. This balances the sweetness of the pie and adds subtle citrus notes that deepen the overall flavor.
With all the juice that’s bound to be oozing out of these berries when we cook them, it’s important to thicken the mixture. This is critical decision-making time – flour, cornstarch, or tapioca?
Flour’s a pretty traditional thickener for fruit pies, probably because the canister’s already on your counter after rolling out the pie crust. Many chefs, though, thicken their blackberry pie with cornstarch. The Betty Crocker blackberry pie and even the blackberry pie recipe Martha Stewart makes use this corny option.
Both flour and cornstarch can actually lose their thickening power when exposed to acid (i.e., lemon juice), and I find it’s hit or miss when I cook with them.
Sometimes my pie will stay within the boundaries of its crusty cuts, but often it looks more like a blackberry cobbler with pie crust on top and a sad, soggy resemblance of one on the bottom.
To make my perfect Blackberry Pie tapioca is the only thing up to the thickening challenge.
Tapioca, which comes from the cassava tree, is the best tool for creating a thickened fruit filling that both holds its shape even at room temperature and doesn’t react negatively to acid. I like to use Minute Tapioca, Kraft’s brand of instant tapioca, which is a granulated version of the big pearls you find in the pudding.
You don’t have to cook it before baking with it, but it does need to “bloom” for a few minutes (similar to activating yeast) to make sure it’ll work the way it’s supposed to. Then your filling is ready for baking perfection.
HOW LONG DO YOU COOK A BLACKBERRY PIE?
Blackberry Pie takes 50 – 60 minutes to bake at 400 degrees. Like other berry pies, this provides enough time for the filling to thicken and the crust to reach a golden brown color and crispy texture.
You can tent the top with foil, if necessary, to prevent it from burning.
Now for the hard part – you need to let the pie rest for several hours, preferably overnight, before cutting. Yes, you’ll be grateful you spared your tongue the third-degree burns, but it’s also another important step when you’re working with tapioca.
It gives it some additional time to soak up any loose juices and make sure you have a picture-perfect pie slice.
Only one more decision to make . . . whipped cream or ice cream?
RECIPE NOTES FOR BLACKBERRY PIE:
Dietary restrictions – You can easily make a vegan Blackberry Pie by substituting a homemade or store-bought vegan pie crust, then using a non-dairy milk to brush the pie crust before baking. Since we’re not using flour to thicken the pie, you can also substitute a gluten-free pie crust and make this suitable for anyone with a sensitivity.
Tapioca – Obviously grinding the tapioca granules is an extra step, but it’s worth the time to ensure it dissolves smoothly. I don’t grind it before using it in my Strawberry Cobbler, for example, but it’s important when making a lattice-topped pie. Parts of the fruit filling will be exposed directly to the hot air of the oven and may dry out before dissolving fully.
Note the measurement given in the recipe is the amount before grinding. After it’s been ground, the volume will change, so make sure you’re measuring ½ cup straight from the box, then grinding it.
Bubbling basics – Short of setting off your smoke alarm, it can be hard to tell when the pie is done. Obviously, the crust needs to be deep golden brown, but the proof is in the bubbles!
When the pie is cooked, the juice from the fruit will form bubbles in the center of the pie that burst slowly.
It takes longer for the center to reach temperature, so this is a great way to tell whether you’re ready to take the pie out of the oven. If the fruit doesn’t get hot enough to be at this “bubbling” stage, the tapioca will not work as well.
Some of the juices will be spilling out over the edges of the crust at this point (which is why we suggest placing the pie plate on a cookie sheet :)).
Too lazy for lattice – This really is an easy Blackberry Pie recipe (which can be altered to make an easy blueberry pie, bumbleberry pie, or mixed berry pie), and the lattice work is a quick way to make it look as good as it tastes.
If you don’t want to go to the trouble, though, you can top the pie with another solid piece of pie dough and add some vent slits so the steam can escape. I still recommend brushing the top with milk or cream and dusting it with coarse sugar to add that little professional touch to your pie.
To dot or not to dot – If you have many old pie recipes, you’ve likely seen directions that call for dotting the top of the filling with butter before adding the top crust. I don’t really see the need since the crust itself is plenty rich, but you may feel drawn by tradition.
If you need a little encouragement to skip the dotting step, here you go. Cooks Illustrated gives you permission!
Blackberry Pie Recipe
- 1 1/2 Cup Sugar
- 1/2 Cup Minute Tapioca
- 1/8 Teaspoon Salt
- 8 Cups Fresh Blackberries 2-36 Ounce Containers
- 2 Teaspoons Lemon Zest
- 2 Tablespoon Lemon juice
- 2 Tablespoons Water
- 2 9 Inch Refrigerated Pie Crusts
- 2 Tablespoons Heavy Cream or Milk
- 1-2 Tablespoons Coarse Sugar
Adjust oven rack to lower-middle position and preheat to 400 degrees.
Grind the tapioca in a spice grinder, or just cleaned coffee grinder, until it becomes a fine powder.
Whisk together sugar, ground tapioca and salt in a mixing bowl. Add blackberries, lemon zest, lemon juice and water and fold until mixture is evenly coated. Allow to set on the counter at room temperature for 15 minutes.
Roll one of the pie crusts, on a lightly floured counter, into a 12-inch circle. Fit into a standard 9-inch pie plate. Trim excess dough leaving a 1-inch overhang. Put back in the fridge while you prepare the second crust.
Roll out the second crust, on a lightly floured counter, into a 12-inch circle. Cut into 12-one inch strips with a knife or pastry wheel.
Spoon blackberry mixture into dough-lined pie plate. Dot with butter. Arrange strips in a tight lattice pattern. Trim excess on ends of dough off strips flush with the overhang of the bottom crust. Fold lattice ends and bottom crust under. Flute edges using your thumb and forefinger or crimp with a fork.
Brush lattice top with heavy cream and sprinkle with coarse sugar.
Place pie plate on a rimmed baking sheet. Bake in a preheated oven, until crust is golden brown and the juices of the pie have slow bursting bubbles in the center of the filling, about 50-60 minutes. If crust begins to brown too quickly, cover loosely with aluminum foil.
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